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Media Relations – II


Er. Prabhat Kishore

One technique in developing successful press releases is to give some background and interpretation to the immediate news.

The way a press release is written and set up can determine whether or not it is used by the publication. Top the release with brief head line that identifies the subject and, if possible, gives the gist of the story. Then summarise the entire story, with all the vital details, in the first short paragraph; what happened, or will happen; the names of the organisation or firm, the people and the products involved, date and time if relevant, the place. Also suggest in this lead paragraph the significance of the news. Then with simple sentences and brief paragraphs, fill out the story. Use facts and factual comparisons to impress. If possible, keep the story on one page. Always indicate where and from whom the editor can get additional information. Include also the telephone number. Physical presentation is also important, observing the following points:-

(1)   Use paper with a headline especially printed for your press releases. The name of your organisation should also be prominent. The paper should be full typing-page size. The long ‘A4' or full scape size is best.

(2)   Use only one side of the sheet.

(3)   Whatever reproduction system is used, copies should be clean and legible.

(4)   Double scape, with wide margins on either side.

(5)   Always place the date of story at the top.

(6)   No underlining.

(7)   Indent all paragraphs except the first.

(8)   No full stops between initials.

(9)   Use quotations sparingly.

(10) If the story runs over, put ‘MORE' at the bottom of each pages.

(11) At the end of story indicate source for information (name, telephone, telex, cable address, post address, email address).


Photographs can make a story, or at least give it more prominence and interest. In fact, a good news picture published with a suitable caption can be of more publicity value than 1000-word story. So consider sending photographs with press release when appropriate. Typical subjects include news products, events at a trade show, people in the news, a visiting mission. It is important to identify and caption pictures properly.

Photographs should never be clipped or stapled to their captions or to the accompanying release. Photographs are expensive to prepare and mail. You can reduce wastage by not sending them with release; instead indicate on the release that they are available. However, publications are more likely to use photographs when they arrive with the release.

Maintain a photographic library with an index system. Keep one point of each photograph, but periodically weed out those you have obviously out dated. Aim to reduce as much as possible the waste involved in sending releases to inappropriate publications. To minimize wastage, develop mailing lists according to subject matter. It is always better to address releases to specific individuals on publications.

In some countries there are public relations wire services. For an annual fee, they will transmit your releases by telex directly to publications. This is especially convenient for general releases, and can save a lot of work and even postage and preparation costs. Critically a public relations agency, to take over all the work associated with preparing and mailing out press releases.

Of necessity, disseminating press releases will be your primary means of communicating with the press. However, when the circumstances are right, staging a press conference or reception is likely to produce more published material.

Basically a press conference is a meeting of reporters at which they receive news. Refreshments may or may not be served. A reception is a more elaborate affair, a meal may be served and the programmes include several events, such as talks, a film showing, and the presentation of an exhibit. The distinction is mainly one of the degrees. Press receptions are sometimes put on with nothing more specific in mind than to create goodwill with the press. At best this is a questionable use of funds.

From the publicity point of view, staging press gatherings can be more effective than merely dispatching press releases. But you have to offer journalists a reason to take the time to come to a press event. Food or drink is not sufficient. There must be news of real interest to the publication involved, and not merely news that could have been sent in a press release. The people whom the journalists are called to meet should be willing and able to answer questions. A press reception should be a standard part of publicity for trade missions and exhibitions.

The programme for a press conference can be quite simple, a brief introduction by the host, a prepared announcement or statement by the main speaker (or speakers), question period, and perhaps a fairly brief referencing, the period during which the reporters can chat informally with the speakers. Always remember that reporters are busy. Start promptly, and keep talks fairly brief.

You should brief the speakers and other participants on the purpose, the programme, which publications are expected to be represented, their interest and the likely direction of questions.

The timing of press meet can affect the resulting coverage. You will have the best chance of drawing the journalists you want if you stage the affair during hours (including the lunch hour) and perhaps upto one hour later. For the morning newspapers, the best time of day is around mid-day, and for the weekly and monthly journals, late afternoon. It is best to keep press reception for the press and not to invite others as well.

Invitations should be extended to individual journalists, not simply to their publications. Be sure to include the following information on the invitations: (a) The host, (b) Purpose, (c) Day and date, time and place, (d) The nature of the hospitality, (e) Signify, as with ‘RSVP' that you would like a reply, and the name, telephone number and address, to be used for replying.

(Author is a technocrat and educationist.

He studied Journalism and Mass

Communication at Patna University)



The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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